Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has said his office will need more resources if it is to oversee practices in multinational companies based here under new EU regulations.

Under the proposed regulations, announced by the European Commission last month, Ireland would be the designated data protection authority in Europe for companies like Facebook and Google, which have their main European bases here.

Speaking at the Irish Computer Society's Data Protection Conference at Croke Park in Dublin this morning, Mr Hawkes said the recent audit of Facebook had absorbed a lot of his small office's resources.

He said if the office becomes responsible for many more such organisations and their data protection practices, it will be very challenging.

However, he said he believed there was an Ireland Inc agenda there to make sure that Ireland is seen as a place where personal data is well protected.

New laws has strong emphasis on person's rights: Hawkes

Mr Hawkes said the EU regulations on data protection have a strong emphasis on a person's right to control their personal information on social networking sites.

He welcomed the inclusion of a so-called “right to be forgotten”, which will ensure users can permanently delete information from sites like Facebook.

However he said this would be a challenging concept as it would come up against the right of the media and other organisations to keep data.

The regulations were outlined by the European Data Protection Commissioner Viviane Reding last month and are due to take effect across Europe in early 2014.

The conference also heard details of a recent survey on data protection by the ICS, involving over 300 IT administration and management staff.

The survey found that, over the last 12 months, nearly half of respondents reported that their companies had experienced a data breach.

58% of these breaches were caused by a staff member, proportionally more of a result of internal failure and lack of awareness, rather than from external data theft.

The society is launching a new Association of Data Protection Officers at the conference this afternoon.

It said the association will be open to membership for anyone carrying out a data protection role in their organisation, either formally or informally.